Crackpot Ratings and These Women
By Lady Sharon
In this week’s Newsroom episode, we see the News Night staff again sacrifice popularity in order to do what’s right and important. But we also get hints that sometimes, you simply have to dance with the one that brung ya. We see characters struggle with current love interests and ignore their potential soulmates. But yet they somehow remain true to themselves. Clearly an episode designed to move the plotline forward, we learn of another roadblock in the path to news enlightenment.
In this week’s recap and review, I also grapple with whether or not Sorkin is purposefully writing weak women. And just underneath the surface, it all seems to ask, “Why would we do something counter-productive to our own interests?”
|Yes, I said The Jersey Shore. Photo: HBO.|
Will: "(We) miscalled election results, hyped up terror scares, ginned up controversy, and failed to report on tectonic shifts in our country….We took a dive for the ratings."
He apologized for past News Night reports which sacrificed good reporting to get ratings, and likened their motives to the producers of The Jersey Shore. And though he specifically stated his apology wasn’t about any show or newscaster other than himself and News Night, he pointed a harsh finger at the entire industry.
He ends his speech with this, “Who are we to make the decisions (about what goes on the air)? We are the media elite.”
He’s referring to himself and Mac… and he calls themselves the media elite!
Hang on a sec.
We know Mac is an award-winning producer. And we learn in this episode that Will was a top-notch prosecutor, a speech writer, and a reporter, so we know they’re both smart. And it’s clear they know how to work the technology and run the business of “making a TV news show.” But media elite?
|Yes, honey. You stink! Photo: source|
Sorkin was explaining what they are trying to do with News Night, and why these people are the best qualified ones to do it. But two things, Aaron:
1) Please stop explaining the purpose of the show.
And 2) “Media elite?” You overshot the mark there, just a bit.
The Jim and Maggie romance makes a few false starts, but Jim soothes Maggie during a panic attack, and it’s a golden moment.
So far this season, Don and Maggie have broken up and gotten back together. And broken up and gotten back together. (Editor's Note: And broken up and gotten back together.) And on this episode, they break up and get back together a few more times. During each of these break ups, Jim considers whether or not “swoop in” and make a move on Maggie. Chivalrously - but stupidly - he doesn’t.
But chivalrously - and tenderly - he goes out to the balcony to help Maggie through a panic attack that had begun right in the middle of a pitch meeting. (Turns out he learned a few tricks when he was covering the war in Afghanistan with Mac.)
He takes her aside, takes her pulse, talks her down, and just cares for her so sweetly. He’s so in tune to helping her, and she’s so in need of the help, that there’s no realization on their faces of the connection they're making. They just make it. It’s pure chemistry. And it’s golden.
|"You're safe. You're awesome." I MELT. Photo: source.|
Later on, just when Jim’s worked up the nerve to say something to Maggie, Don walks in and kisses her. DAMMIT. They’re back together again.
But Jim’s not a total gomer. He at least got one good zinger in on Don, and the 10 p.m. show he now produces.
Jim: You guys did a good show tonight. I wasn’t aware of what was going on with the McRib sandwich.
Will parades a string of arm-candy dates in front of Mac.
|I heart Wonder Woman.|
And I have to wonder, why was she so wrapped up in those women if she was dating someone else the whole time? If her new beau is really happening and not just a farce, then she’s even more unstable than I first thought. If he’s just a fake-out, then she is almost firing on all cylinders.
Will does eventually try to apologize to Mac for using the office as his on deck circle, but during his apology, Mac’s new boyfriend barges in.
A great line of dialog occurs here, when Will shares his reasoning on why he did this with his dates:
Will: "I’m not doing it on purpose. I’m not rubbing her face in anything. I’m simply not considering her feelings at all. Yeah, I just heard myself say that."
Sorkin’s Newsroom Women Are NOT Bimbos
Some critics feel that Sorkin isn’t writing good, strong female characters. There are flaws to work out with his women, Mac being the prime suspect. (Just bring back CJ Cregg and Allison Janney to play her. Solved.)
But I have issues with the opinion that his women are “as ditzy and needy as the show needs (them) to be whenever it suits (him).”
First, let’s get one thing straight. He’s the creator here, and this is drama, so clearly he can and should make his characters be whatever he needs. Second, there is no pattern to Sorkin using women only for window-dressing and slipping on banana peels.
A scene in this ep is a perfect example of why his women are right on and right where they need to be.
During a meeting to prep the show covering the Times Square bombing, Maggie tells the room that the person who first saw the smoking car was a Muslim. Though she found the information on an unreliable blog, she did confirm it with the NYPD. And she hit on truth and logic, and served it up on a silver platter with a heaping side of heart.
|Maggie Jordan. Photo: source|
BAM! This is what Sorkin excels at! It’s these moments that what make me come back, week after week, time after time.
Critics say that Maggie is naïve, idealistic, and this characterization plays into the stereotype of a young, cute, inexperienced girl.
Ya know what, chicken butt? Maggie is idealistic. But she’s a perfect standard bearer for a show that’s trying to depict the idealistic way news should be broadcast. It does not, in any way, diminish her as a woman or intelligent being.
The new approach of Will and News Night disturbs CEO Leona Lansing. She warns Charlie that Will’s stance will not be tolerated.
Throughout the events of the 6 months covered in this episode, we see flash-forward glimpses of a meeting with Charlie Skinner, execs at ACN, and Leona Lansing, the CEO, played by Jane Fonda. The execs are none too happy with Will’s performance because… wait for it… they’ve been losing ratings. (Nice way to put a ribbon on it and tie this ep up nice, Aaron.)
Sounds like Will and Mac are succeeding in their quest for boring but educational news.
The execs give Charlie the third degree over the ratings dive, and Charlie sticks up for them and their purpose vehemently. Nice of him, considering he’s been orchestrating this whole revolution, starting when he hired Mac in the first episode.
Sam Waterston’s Charlie is strong-willed, obstinate and fatherly, and just prickly enough to take the edge off awkward situations. He really gives it to the execs in this meeting. And does it with class and wit, even if it is a little light on professionalism.
Charlie: "The news room turned into a courtroom because I made the decision that America needed a fucking lawyer!"
Charlie: "Is this News 101, (or are you) confusing it with Douche-baggery 101?"
He also gives a good ol' college try at an imitation of Burgess Meredith in Rocky 2.
|"This guy, he don’t just wanna beat ya, see? He wants to murder ya!"|
But as the events of this meeting unfold, we also learn that Leona has another problem. Will spent the entire summer hammering away at Tea Party Republicans. Those officials are now in office and this makes life and work hard for Leona who “has business in front of this Congress… with the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.” Leona may agree with what Charlie, Mac, Will and News Night are doing, but she can’t really let it go unnoticed because she has to work with this newly-elected government.
Jane is playing the personification of the greed of cable companies perfectly. But otherwise, I’m not sure what to think about Leona or Jane’s portrayal of her. Let’s stick a pin in that until we see more.
Sorkin said that he wrote this season as a 10-part play in three acts. So this episode should put us roughly at the end of Act 1. By this point we’ve met the cast, understood their characters and figured out what the conflict is and what they want.
They want a good news show that doesn’t cow-tow to ratings, but Leona might need them to not go full throttle. Will they cave?
Mac wants Will; Will wants Mac. Jim wants Maggie; Maggie wants Jim. How long will it take for them to finally stop being morons about it all?
Tune in next week, dear Tea Drinkers… as Act 2 gets underway.
Postscript: The West Wing Connection
|The West Wing Connection|
I’m a West Wing junkie, and have noticed lots of similar details, dialog, or plot points in The Newsroom. So let's have some fun each week, point them out, and remember another great Sorkin gem of television drama!
- Will was a speech writer, like Sam, Toby and Will.
- “6 to 5 and pick ‘em.” (from the The West Wing Pilot)
- The two Tea Party folks that Will interviewed were being broadcast from Manhattan, KS. This is the city where CJ discovered that Abby was injecting Jed with beta-seron.
- My title “Crackpot Ratings and These Women” is a play off of a West Wing episode in Season 1, entitled “The Crackpots and These Women.”